A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

Hand-Held Fireworks ( SENKO HANABI) Make Japanese Summer Nights SPARKLE!

Hand-held HANABI on a hot summer night in Japan

By Avi Landau

I have said it before- In Japan summer means fireworks. I forgot to mention, however, that by fireworks ( hanabi), I was not only referring to  the kind that are launched up into the sky.

Kids playing with HANABI in Tsukuba

If you pass through any Japanese residential neighborhood in late July or August at night, do not be surprised to spot a colored glow,  not high up above, but low to the ground, often behind a wall or fence- in fact eminating out of someones garden. This will more often than not be accompanied ( or preceded) by the smell of smoke and the sound of excited young voices.  If you have a chance to peek through the gate, or over the fence, you surely see some kids, usually under the supervision of barbecueing or beer drinking parents, playing with HAND-HELD fireworks ( senko-hanabi, literally- incence stick fireworks).

A variety of hand-held HANABI on sale at a drugstore in Tsukuba.

When these are lit, they sparkle brightly, eerily illuminating the wide-eyed excited faces of the kids playing with them. The smoke they give off,  obscures parts of this scene, now here, now there, and then drifts off , carrying its  acrid, gun-powdrery smell. The laughter, crackling, sparkling, and the sulphorous scent, all combine to make a distinctively atmospheric Japanese Summer`s night.

As magical and FLEETING as childhood itself.

Close-up of a hand-held fire-works package I found at the supermarket

You can by cheap packs of  these hand-held fire-works ( also called Te Hanabi, hand -fireworks, or niwa-hanabi, garden fireworks) at ANY convenience store and most toy stores.



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